“iHeartRadio Jingle Ball” brings the heat

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Dua Lipa attends the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2022, she's wearing an off the shoulder black dress
Dua Lipa attends iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball 2022 Presented by Capital One at Madison Square Garden on December 9, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

2022 was a monumental year within the music industry in which we witnessed musicians who previously went underrecognized rise to new heights. This includes Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Ava Max. The year also brought unexpected comebacks one would have never foreseen, notably the Backstreet Boys and, subsequently, to a lesser extent Demi Lovato.

While Jingle Ball takes place at several of iHeartRadio’s biggest Top 40 radio stations in the United States, the main show is always hosted by Z100 New York (WHTZ-FM) at Madison Square Garden and features the largest lineup. This specific show is also filmed and broadcast on The CW Network.

This year iHeartRadio Jingle Ball tapped a very current lineup consisting of Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Charlie Puth, Backstreet Boys, The Kid LAROI, AJR, Demi Lovato, Lauv, Ava Max, Dove Cameron, Jax, and JVKE. Celebrity presenters included Haworth native Brooke Shields, Katie Holmes, Zoey Deutch, Jana Kramer, and the entire morning show cast of Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.

The New Jersey homage and short tales in between songs from Garden State natives AJR and Jax added a personal touch. Despite being one of the first acts to hit the stage, Ava Max proved she has the talent to be the main act come next year. There is definitely a long future ahead of Ava Max who, much like Dua Lipa, has the vocals, moves, and appeal (visually and musically) to be the next pop princess. Ava’s sophomore studio album, Diamonds & Dancefloors, will be released on Jan. 27th.

Lauv had everyone in the arena singing in tandem, particularly during his last track, “I Like Me Better,” which still receives the same enthusiasm from fans in 2022 as 2018. Demi Lovato was another Jingle Ball highlight, distinctively in that her vocals were impeccable live. I expected Lizzo to go on second to last, just before Dua Lipa, and was truly shocked she hit the stage so early in the evening.

Lizzo kicked off her set decked in all green, from hair to toe, wearing a red Santa Clause jacket performing “About Damn Time.” Lizzo then took off her jacket as she became the Grinch for the rest of her set. Lizzo and her dancers were larger than life, filled with personality, and out of all the acts, Lizzo’s set was by far the most festive. The Backstreet Boys, who have been having an unforeseen comeback this past year, put on an incredible show. The boys’ setlist featured a mix of hits and holiday anthems in lieu of their tenth studio album and first Christmas album, A Very Backstreet Christmas.

The Kid Laroi and Charlie Puth went on just prior to Dua Lipa. Both sets were quite lackluster and should have taken place much earlier in the evening. Everyone was anticipating The Kid Laroi performing his mega hit, “Stay.” Of all the shows for him to do a shortened and acoustic rendition, it definitely should not have been Jingle Ball. That was a very, very bad move.

Jingle Ball 2022 commenced at 7pm sharp. Finally, at 11:25pm, Dua Lipa kicked off her extended seven-track setlist to close out the holiday extravaganza. In 2022 I attended two dozen shows, the most I have ever went to in one year alone. Of all the concerts I have been at this past year, which have included icons such as Lady Gaga and Mary J. Blige, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia Tour was hands down the best tour of 2022. Lizzo’s Special Tour and Post Malone’s Twelve Carat Tour tie for second place. Thus, iHeartRadio got it right this year by tapping Dua Lipa as the headliner.

Dua Lipa’s set was one big dance party as she opened with the high energy “Physical” before making her way into “New Rules” which featured a slick dance routine with umbrellas. The climax was when Dua performed a highly stimulating rendition of “One Kiss” followed by a sexy performance of “Hallucinate.” For all songs performed, Dua Lipa performed the versions featured on the Future Nostalgia Tour, hence the reason the aforesaid were the obvious highlights.

Dua Lipa and Warner Records should seriously consider releasing studio versions of these tour renditions because they are pop gems. A majority of the songs Dua performed were the ones in which tour variations differed extensively from the album, which is why her set was pure perfection. Despite “Cold Heart” being a duet with Elton John, Dua effortlessly carried the track solo, which made for a very heartwarming moment with the audience. Dua Lipa performed her biggest Hot 100 hit, “Levitating,” then closed out the show with the breakup power anthem, “Don’t Start Now,” which featured a confetti explosion throughout the arena followed by a thank you to fans.

As Elvis Duran stated when he introduced Dua Lipa, this is an artist who went from performing in the lobby of radio stations to selling out arenas. Dua Lipa has come a long way and deservedly so as she is talented in a multitude of ways. I am already anticipating Dua’s third studio album and the next era. While I may have saw Lady Gaga live twice this year, it really should have been Dua Lipa I saw twice.

Watch Dua Lipa perform the smash hit “One Kiss” here. Watch a playlist full of artist performances here.

Listen to my podcast, Will Love Listen, available on iHeartRadio here.